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June 27, 2018
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A Prayer About Integrity

Perhaps you’ve noticed it at your doctor’s office, on the wall between the diplomas and other accomplishments. It’s a prayer called the Physician’s Prayer by Maimonides, in which the physician humbly recognizes his/her place in the larger picture and asks God for support in the practice of medicine for reasons beyond those that are personal.

Inspire me with love for my art and for Your creatures.
Do not allow thirst for profit, ambition for renown and admiration
to interfere with my profession.
 – Maimonides, excerpt from the Physician’s Prayer

While the task of medicine and healing the sick is typically far more consequential than the tasks associated with most professionals, the message is universal…or it should be. Most of us choose professions out of a passion, or desire to do what interests us, and based on areas in which we excel. In time, however there’s a tendency for many of us to get seduced by the all mighty dollar. As a result, our thirst for profit can cloud our better judgement.

We see examples often, such as those that have been written about in the financial world, like the practice of brokers conducting excessive trading in a client’s account mainly to generate higher commissions (aka churning). Salespeople in various other businesses have also been accused of selling higher priced products and services than those required to meet the needs of the client. It all boils down to a question of integrity in business.

Making Decisions Not Solely Based on Profits

In 1970, Robert Greenleaf, a business researcher and consultant, published a paper on Servant Leadership, which later became a book and a philosophy whereby the leader is a servant first who wants to lead by serving others. According to Greenleaf; “The difference [between leader first and servant leader] manifests itself in the care taken by the servant, first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”

Many leaders, who are not necessarily defined as servant-leaders, recognize the personal value of incorporating some of this concept into their daily interactions with clients or customers. Rather than selling the latest product with the newest features or leading customers to the highest priced items, they have acted with humility and integrity. They listen closely to the wants and needs of their customers with the primary intent of serving them, rather than focusing on a profit motive.

Personally, I get satisfaction, and know I will sleep better at night, by meeting the needs of my client regardless of the price point. I find great value in the interaction with the customers, and even learn from them. Unless artificial intelligence manages to take over the world, I believe that we are all better served by remembering the value of the human interaction, and that we should interact with integrity.

So, the next time, after you have an interaction with a customer, try taking the position that you will meet their needs first, regardless of the sales total. Then, later that day, ask yourself; Are we healthier, happier, and wiser from that interaction? Do I feel better about myself? Often the answer will be “yes” and that’s what integrity, and going above and beyond the profit motive as all about.

Joe Kelemer

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